Thursday, February 28, 2013

A Long-Ago Asked Question Finally Is Answered

The dual ravages of time and chemicals - mostly those found in liquid-based recreational forms - have taken their toll upon my mind.  I know no longer am what I once was.  Given the simpering mess that I am now, I know not whether that thought makes me laugh, cry or simply throw up my hands.  If you are betting at home, opt for what was just revealed to be behind Curtain #3.   Just saying.

For reasons that escape me now I have a recollection of one or more of my three eldest sibs (Bill, Evan and Kelly) being the creator of one or two truly awful jokes that were shared with me when I was little dude.  One of them (and I think this might have been Evan's handiwork) was this gem: 

                    Q.:  Why did the woman get off of the train?  
                    A.:  She forgot her pocketbook.  

The other comedy nugget mined from the sinkhole of my memory (and I cannot recall from whose well of comic genius this one sprung) seems quite appropriate today.  It too was set up in traditional Question and Answer format:  

                     Q.: What did one Pope say to the other Pope?  
                     A.:  Pope Pope.  

Never in my wildest dreams as a preschooler or as a student at first St. Paul's Prison Camp or thereafter at Immaculate Conception School did I think I would see the day where the latter not only represented cutting-edge, far ahead of its time comedy but also a concise statement of current events.  

Today my dreams have been realized.  


Today marks the end of the reign of Pope Benedict XVI.   While the College of Cardinals shall not convene until at the earliest next Monday to begin the process of selecting a new Pope - and it saddens me to realize that the last Cardinal standing is not likely to be either my personal favorite for the gig or Mickey Rourke (who unlike anyone in the College of Cardinals actually has some prior Pope-playing experience) - effective 8:00 P.M. local time today Pope Benedict XVI shall be Pope no longer.  His new title? He shall be called either pope emeritus, emeritus pope of Roman pontifex emeritus. I suspect had they asked the old boy he would have opted for "Eggs" or "Benny" over any of those three.  Maybe something a bit more "street" would have been to his liking:  "EB XVI" or some such thing.  

As someone whose Catholicism lapsed shortly after the warranty expired at or about the time I made my first  Holy Communion (as if it would be an event if if was not the "First" and as if the "Holy" is not implied), I hope that the frauds and doctrinaires who dominate the Roman Catholic Church in the same manner as they do each and every organized religion worldwide get exposed during the next few days.

It would really delight me to no end if all of them, including those in the business of using "the Church" as a cudgel to beat the tar out of everyday, regular folks, and those who they dominate and intimidate with all of their blather and nonsense discover simultaneously that the role of the Pope has an importance previously reserved only for the role of Darrin on Bewitched in the day-to-day business of those of us here on Earth.   To paraphrase both the Chairman of the Board and Diamond Dave, "Life goes on without him." 

Once the sheep come to realize that a dottering, frail old man transported from place to place standing upright inside a vehicle covered in bulletproof glass is simply a figurehead and not an actual leader and that - holy shit - they can in fact dictate their own destiny methinks that the collection plate at Sunday services worldwide might be a little lighter come nightfall.   

Can I get an "Amen"....

No?  No bother.  Truth be told I was not expecting one. 

-AK 

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

A Million Dollars Worth Of Good....


Well, I sat down to listen to the shoeshine boy
And I thought I was gonna jump for joy
Slapped on the shoe polish left and right
He took a shoeshine rag and he held it tight
He stopped once to wipe the sweat away
I said you're a mighty little boy to be-a workin' that way
He said I like it with a big wide grin

It is unlikely that when Johnny Cash first sang "Get Rhythm" - a great little rockin' tune slightly more than two minutes long - Albert Lexie was the the upbeat, philosophical shoeshine boy about whom he sang and whose advice he shared.  Given that Albert Lexie has patrolled the hallways at the Children's Hospital in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania with his shoeshine cart since 1981, it is not inconceivable that Cash's song served as an inspiration for Mr. Lexie's career path.    

You might have missed the story last week - I stumbled upon it in the on-line edition of the Los Angeles Times while standing at the deli counter at my A&P store on Saturday afternoon - about Mr. Lexie.  It is a story worth knowing - especially in these days of sequestration and other abject meanness and stupidity being foisted upon us by allegedly learned folks of various political ilks.  

Mr. Lexie has been shining shoes at the Children's Hospital in Pittsburgh for more than three decades.  Every Tuesday and Thursday.  And while his rates are now more than the "nickel per shoe" in Cash's song, it remains a truism that no one goes broke paying for a shoeshine and that one gets rich performing them.  Well, as Mr. Lexie has demonstrated perhaps that second "truism" is not true at all. 

During the course of his time at the Children's Hospital, Mr. Lexie has grown into the hospital's unofficial Mayor.  In addition to shining shoes (at $5.00 a shine still a bargain in my opinion), he visits staff members and patients and brings toys to the small children.  No one who visits his stand is compelled to tip him.  They do anyway.  

In fact his customers tip well enough that Mr. Lexie - who has throughout his thirty-plus years donated every cent of tip money earned at his shoeshine stand to the hospital's foundation - has donated more than $200,000.    

The great Bernard Malamud once wrote, "Without heroes we are all plain people and don't know how far we can go."  Kudos to Albert Lexie for helping all of us get a little further on up the road than we might otherwise.  

-AK 


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Renaissance Man

I was worn out enough by my Sunday in Central Park - just imagine how tired I would have been had I actually completed the marathon - that I called it an evening prior to ABC's telecast of the Academy Awards from Los Angeles.   As someone who goes to the movies only rarely and who saw exactly ZERO of the films nominated for Best Picture (or any of the other major awards for that matter) I did not feel that not watching the show was the same as "missing" it.   To me it was a case of a distinction making all the difference. 

While I have not seen any of the nominated films, I was not displeased to see that Ben Affleck's movie "Argo" won the Academy Award for Best Picture.  Not too many years ago, Affleck was a Hollywood punch line, talked about more for the women he romanced off-screen than anything he did on-screen.   He is a young man whose best years were thought - foolishly as it turns out - to be far behind him.  His film won the Best Picture Oscar although he himself did not get nominated in the Best Director category.  I read somewhere yesterday that such a thing had happened only one other time in the past eighty years.  

Better than his victory was the grace with which he accepted it.  He had a chance Sunday night to air his own list of grievances towards one and all who had laughed at him, mocked him or otherwise derided him.  He did none of the above. "You have to work harder than you think you possibly can," said Affleck, "and you  can't hold grudges."  He added, "It doesn't matter how you get knocked down in life because that is going to happen.  All that matters is you gotta get up."    

Well said.  And a triumph well-earned. 

-AK 

Monday, February 25, 2013

Kenny's Folly

On what morphed into a simply delightful February morning on which to run, my career as a marathoner came to a screeching, ignominious halt in the glorious surroundings of New York City's Central Park.   A day that had dawned threatening both rain and wind delivered none of the former and scant little of the latter. 
 
The first-ever Central Park Marathon was a terrific event.  Unfortunately it was a race that I started but did not finish.  After completing the first half of the race in a rather satisfactory 2:15, which was slightly slower than I had hoped to run but not disappointing by any stretch, my left leg - particularly directly behind my knee cap - did what it sometimes did.  It acted as if it had little use for the rest of my body.  A limb with an independent streak might not always be the worst thing....unless it is one of the two limbs tasked with the responsibility of carrying the aforementioned body 26.2 miles. 
 
By the time I embarked on my fourth loop - the course featured five loops that took us from the southern most part of the Park all the way up to 102nd Street - the state of my angry limb had descended to the point where I was making substantially better time walking briskly than I was trying to run.   Given that walking did not create a sensation of attempting to step on shards of broken glass, which is precisely what running on my left leg felt like, it was the only way to go.  Necessity is the mother of invention after all.
 
I made the very tough decision as I completed the fourth of the five loops to not continue and to not complete the race.  Doing so did not make me happy, especially in light of the training and preparation I had done for the race and the fact that I had dragged my wife out of our home in the pre-dawn hours of the morning to accompany me to it.  But it had to be done.  I pride myself on having a higher pain threshold than most.  I was afraid I might have actually done real damage to my left knee had I attempted to run the final 6.2 miles.  At Mile 20 I pulled the plug. 
 
Since turning forty-four in February 2011 I have participated in three marathons.  When I trained for the first one, my expectation was that I would be able to complete it in four hours or less.  I did not.  I finished in slightly less than four and one-half hours.  Last year I completed the same course in about eight minutes more.  Yesterday, given the condition of my left leg and the time it took me to complete twenty miles, I would have been lucky to get home in less than five hours. 
 
I am notoriously poor at listening to my body when it tries to tell me something, which is why several years ago I underwent emergency gallbladder surgery.  After three years of not listening to my body's not-always-silent rebellion under my pursuit of marathoning, I have finally gotten the message.  In the words of the great American philosopher Josey Wales, "A man has got to know his limitations."  It took me a while but on this particular subject, I have gotten to know mine.
 
George Edward Woodberry once noted that, "Defeat is not the worst of failures.  Not to have tried is the true failure."  He might be right but you shall have to forgive me if it might take a while for me to embrace that notion.  Someday.  Tomorrow perhaps.  Today?  Not likely.
 
-AK

Sunday, February 24, 2013

New York Minutes

Neither rain nor sleet nor snow nor a transit strike shall keep me today from my appointed rounds.  Five of them in fact.  This morning at or about 8:30 I shall participate in the first-ever Central Park Marathon.   Margaret - for whom the term "long-suffering" was coined shall accompany me.  Her presence on site ensures timely notification shall be provided to next of kin.  One can never be too careful.   It also ensures that she can spend the morning at a place she has wanted to see for some time:  the Central Park Zoo. 
When I view the race course on the map, completing the race in the 5 hours and 15 minutes alloted by its organizers seems hardly difficult at all.  The challenge increases in direct relationship to the scale utilized.  This shall mark my third effort at this distance.  I certainly cannot envision the scenario in which (barring an emergent situation such as I was lost in the woods MORE THAN 26.2 miles from help) I will ever attempt to run a distance longer than this one.  Not at one time certainly. 
Each of the past two years I have completed the New Jersey Marathon and been confronted with the same thought, which is that this distance might be more than my body can handle.  By jumping into the training stream at Week Eight I shortened my training time by 50%.  I put a lot of miles on my legs during the past eight weeks.  My hope is that by not subjecting them to sixteen weeks of marathon training, I have better prepared them for today.  Check back with me 'round dusk to see whether in fact reality met expectation.
If you are in Manhattan today and in or about Central Park keep an eye out for me.  I am Bib #15.  You might see me striding past you as you prepare to enter the Metropolitan Museum of Art or as you are sipping hot cocoa after enjoying a skate on Woolman Rink.  There is a small chance that you might see me curled up in a small ball weeping softly in The Ramble.  If it is the latter then please go to the Finish area and tell Margaret where she can find me.  I do not want her wandering around Central Park by herself trying to locate me - especially given how early the sun sets this time of year.
Because today in New York for me at least....
....every minute counts.

-AK

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Bags of Rosin & Spikes of Steel

One hell of a hectic week for one fella still experiencing a little bit of a vacation hangover.  The joy of litigation work is that occasionally I have a week in which I have exactly zero appearances outside of the office.  Then I have a week like this one.  I might have actually spent more time in the office last week than I did this one....and last week I spent forty percent of the week on vacation.  

This week has reminded me that not only does time fly when you are having fun but when you are busy as hell it sprints right past you as well.  This time next week is the first weekend of March.  Today is Opening Day - Grapefruit League style for the Yankees.   Today shall give those of us who root for the Pinstripe Boys our first look at two of the players the Yankees have opted to entrust the responsibility of playing catcher to this season - instead of Russell Martin.  While I applauded the dispatch of AJ Burnett to the Pirates two off-seasons ago this past winter's decision to allow Russell Martin to join him there caused me to scratch my head.  The itch has yet to go away either.  
 
With all due respect to Martin's potential replacements, among them is Francisco Cervelli, whose principal line of defense after being implicated in the latest "PED" scandal to infect professional baseball was to point to his career-long status as (at best) a mediocre player.  'Tis a thin, fuzzy line between the truth and self-deprecation.  Cervelli has one foot planted on each side of it. 
 
It has long been oberved that Spring is the season of hope.  Given that the official arrival of Winter's replacement will not be here for another three-plus weeks methinks that hope has never been shown to be dependent upon the equinox.  The season's end is more than one hundred sixty games and seven months away.  Right now in cities and towns all over Florida and Arizona assured and aspiring major leaguers are grabbing their gear and taking the first steps on the long journey to October.  For the overwhelming majority of them the season will end in disappointment. 
 
But that is a worry for another day.  Today is Opening Day.  Even if the games do not count in the standings, they are being played.  And for present purposes that is more than enough. 
 
 


-AK

Friday, February 22, 2013

A Long Walk Home

Today - one week short of marking four months since Hurricane Sandy roared ashore and obliterated their town - residents of Mantoloking, New Jersey are being permitted to move back into their homes.  Governor Christie has lifted the emergency evacuation order, which had been the final such order still in effect in New Jersey, that had been issued for Mantoloking due to Sandy.   

Mantoloking Mayor George Nebel was likely guilty of understatement, which is something that far too few elected officials ever approach, when he described today as a, "Big but bittersweet day for Mantoloking."   There are a number of his constituents for whom return - while permitted - is impossible.  They have nothing to which to return.  

But if one buys into the notion that where there is light there is hope and that from one or two sparks a fire can in fact be lit, then one is constrained to hold out hope for the good people of Mantoloking and the little beach town they love.  The journey on which they embark today is a long one.  It is one with an uncertain  outcome.  It is however one worth taking.  It is, of course, the journey that shall lead them home....



-AK


Thursday, February 21, 2013

A Cupboard Devoid of Pots and Kettles

In case you missed it, earlier this week the body that oversees intercollegiate athletics in these United States - the NCAA - served the University of Miami (not the "Cradle of Coaches" in Oxford, Ohio but the Convicts of "Catholics v. Convicts" infamy in Coral Gables, Florida) with a formal notice that it - the NCAA - is charging Ray Lewis U. with the dreaded "lack of institutional control".  This unwelcome sobriquet arises out of the role that a disgraced (well now anyway but not always) Miami booster named Nevin Shapiro to worm his way into the athletic department and to develop and cultivate improper personal and financial relationships with the school's student athletes.  If Miami is found guilty of a "lack of institutional control" then screwed shall replace orange, green and white as the dominant color in its logo. 
 
I do not pretend to know whether Miami is guilty of all, some or none of the sins the institution is alleged to have committed.  I would surmise that the fact that the school has imposed some not insignificant penalties upon itself while the NCAA's investigation was underway suggests that something might smell just a tad stinky down about South Beach way.  The Hurricanes have already self-imposed several sanctions, including sitting out two bowl games and a conference football championship game, which Miami President Donna Shalala indicated during a press conference at which she blasted the NCAA's investigative process is punishment enough already. 
 
While historically I have as much use for Donna Shalala as I do for my Atomic Sub discount card, Shalala's point - in this instance - is well-taken.  Not with regard to the "Woe is me we have suffered enough" shtick.  Truth be told Miami self-penalized long before it knew or reasonably could have known just how badly the NCAA's investigation was structured to screw them.  The fact that now the other shoe has dropped and it has hit the Canes squarely in the mush may not be fair.  But since it was not their motivation behind penalizing themselves before anyone else could they should acknowledge that fact and stop whimpering about it.  No one coerced them into doing what they did.  If they leaped without looking, then the blame for a shitty landing is theirs and their alone.
 
However she was 100% right about the hypocrisy-laden investigation the NCAA has waged against Miami.  One day prior to NCAA President Mark Emmert's announcement that the Notice of Violations had been formally served on the Canes he shitcanned his hand-picked Director of Enforcement for - you guessed it - making stuff up as she went along during the investigation into Miami's misdeeds.   Among the transgressions committed by the NCAA's enforcement staff - as documented in the NCAA's Enforcement Review Report- were:
 
Select NCAA enforcement staff acted contrary to internal protocols, legal counsel and the membership’s understanding about the limits of its investigative powers in the University of Miami case, according to the external Enforcement Review Report.

The external review found select enforcement staff members:
  • Knowingly circumvented legal advice to engage Nevin Shapiro’s criminal defense attorney.
  • Violated the internal NCAA policy of legal counsel only being retained and monitored by the legal staff.
  • Paid insufficient attention to the concern that engaging the criminal defense attorney could constitute an inappropriate manipulation of the bankruptcy process.
  • Did not sufficiently consider the membership’s understanding about the limits of the enforcement staff’s investigative powers.
  • Did not violate a specific bylaw or law.
For those of you keeping score at home, remember that it is the University of Miami and NOT the NCAA that has been accused of lacking "institutional control"....by the NCAA.  The NCAA's solution to the mess it made of its investigation is to state publicly that none of the information that it obtained illegally and/or improperly will be presented to the Infractions Committee that considers Miami's fate in the months ahead.  Un f*cking believable.  Short of having had a NAMBLA membership card fall out of his wallet while he was pontificating on high last year during the Jerry Sandusky-led debacle at Penn State, NCAA President Emmert could not come up with a way to reveal himself to be more of a hypocrite than he has in this whole sordid affair
 
Did someone remember to invite the clowns to this circus?  Oh wait, I forgot.  No need. 
 
They are already here....
 
 
-AK
 

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Hopeful Springs and Howling Winds

From the "Hope You Had a Back-Up Plan Department":  If you had signed up to be a contestant/participant on the new CBS "reality" series, "The Job" in the hopes of scoring your dream gig, then here is to hoping that Plan B works out better for you than did Plan A.  CBS has already pulled the plug on the show.  Apparently, in spite of the countless scores of people in these United States who are unemployed, no one tuned in to watch a show in which several too precious to be real candidates competed for his/her "dream job".  

On a positive note - if your interests run towards an entirely different type of job (or simply to rubbing some sticks and stones together to make the sparks ignite) there are a number of upscale, boutique hotels in New York City in which you can "lay" your head (or whatever body part you wish) during the work day at a deeply discounted rate.  Tuesday's New York Post reported on the successful marriage between a site known as dayuse-hotels.com and a number of Manhattan's trendier hotels and how people have used the two of them to - well - step out perhaps on their own spouse or significant other.   Adultery on a budget.  Only in America.  

As someone whose tolerance for winter and loathing of all forms of frozen precipitation is well-documented, I smiled this morning at the realization that twenty-eight days from this very date marks the arrival of one of the Equinox cousins.  Vernal shall be here to grace those of us who reside in the Northern Hemisphere as of 20 March 2013.  Thankfully this is not a leap year - when for reasons known only to members of the American Meteorological Society an additional day is added in February of all places ("Yea!  An additional day of cold shitty wintry weather!" said no one....ever) - so it is a twenty-eight sprint from this 20th to the important one.  

I am quite confident that we shall receive more than our fair share of winter in the interim.  Here in the State of Concrete Gardens it is supposed to be as cold as witch's fandango today and I might in fact have to run between either raindrops or snow flurries through Central Park on Sunday morning.  That being said, there is indeed a light at tunnel's end.  We have ground to cover but with purposeful strides we shall get there.  

Spring will soon be here....

....and not a moment too soon.

-AK 


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

All. And Then Some....

In the autumn - usually in September - I run in several races, including the Jimmy D 5K in New Brunswick, the Fallen Heroes 5K in Lake Como and the Tunnel to Towers 5K in New York City, which either raise money for and/or honor the work and sacrifice of First Responders.  Firefighters are - of course- well-represented in terms of those being honored and those participating.  

It was with a smile and not an iota of surprise that I read a story this past weekend in the Los Angeles Times regarding the plan that is both the brainchild and a labor of love of the Firefighters' Mutual Benevolent Association, which is a union in which approximately 5,500 New Jersey firefighters are members.  The FMBA's plan is to build twenty-six playgrounds - a number equal to the number of victims slain in the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Newtown, Connecticut this past December - to honor the lives of those children and adults who were murdered.  

The FMBA is going to build the playgrounds in twenty-six communities throughout New Jersey, New York and Connecticut, which three states were the hardest hit by another unwelcome Sandy in late October of last year.  According to FMBA President Bill Lavin, each of the twenty-six playgrounds will have its own unique flair designed to honor the person in whose memory it is being built and the things that he or she loved.  For Jessica Rekos, horses and whales. For Grace McDonnell, lots of peace signs. For Dylan Hockley, the color blue.

This project does not mark the first time that the FMBA has swung into action to help people who live beyond the borders of our beloved State of Concrete Gardens.  After Hurricane Katrina obliterated communities all over the Gulf Coast, the FMBA built a playground for the North Bay Elementary School in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi to replace the one that Katrina had destroyed.  But to hear Lavin tell it, all he and his members did was repay an act of kindness. 

You see, shortly after September 11, 2001 a group of third-graders from North Bay Elementary School had sent notes and letters of encouragement to firefighters and first responders whose days and nights since that dreadful day had been principally spent looking through the wreckage that had once been the World Trade Center and dealing with the loss of family and friends.  Among the fire departments that received the care packages?  Elizabeth, New Jersey.    Bill Lavin was among the Elizabeth firefighters whose spirit was buoyed by the support of children he had never met.  

And from the seeds of something horrific, something beautiful sprouted up.   Something that neither time  nor distance nor politics can tear asunder.   And now the time has come again for Lavin and his colleagues to spring into action.  To answer yet another alarm.  

Bernard Malamud wrote, "Without heroes we are all plain people and don't know how far we can go."   Kudos to Bill Lavin and his comrades for repeatedly reminding the rest of us that the sky is indeed the limit and that the road does in fact go on forever.  

-AK 


Monday, February 18, 2013

Presidential Precedents

Today is President's Day.  It is a day of artifice.  We the people of the United States opted out of honoring the Father of our Nation and the Savior of the Nation separately - although each was (as is Yours truly) a February baby - so that we could morph the observance of their birthdays into one "made for your convenience" day.   If you are not working today, then enjoy your day off. 
 
The Firm is closed today.  Having taken last Monday off as part of my extended Florida vacation I am observing the holiday by working.  Truth be told, whether we had returned home on time or not I would be doing what I am doing today:  taking the depositions of a couple of plaintiffs in a civil rights case I am defending for a town that I represent.  It promises to be a very, very long day.  But it is what it is:  a day.  Another one will follow right behind it. 
 
A very wise man once observed, “Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any one thing.”  Sage advice.  Whatever is on your docket today, go at it with vigor and conviction.    Positive thinking.  'Tis a very good thing....
 
 
 
 
-AK


Sunday, February 17, 2013

Seven Days Out....

Well, as happens each and every time I sign up to run in a marathon I have flat out run out of pre-race Sundays.  Today is the last of a proud and noble group.  This time next week I shall be running in Central Park in the first-ever Central Park Marathon.   On my "to-do" list this week is to check with my inside person at MOMA, Karan Rinaldo, as to whether she can get anyone to staff the "Everclear and Advil" Aid Station I would like them to erect for me next to the museum on the 24th.  The race course features five loops of the park, which will take me past MOMA five times.  I figure that to be safe on at least three - if not four - of those passes I shall be in need of ("cough cough") medical attention.  

Today I am embarking on my final long training run, which truth be told I was supposed to have completed two Sundays ago.  Vacation being what it was I kinda, sorta reset my schedule on the fly.  I am going to run twenty miles today and then take it easy during this week - maybe one or two jaunts on the treadmill of 4 miles or so - in an effort to have my legs be as fresh as they can be for Marathon Sunday.  While in a perfectly adhered to training schedule world today's "final" long run would be only eight miles, I am banking on the fact that my ability to put a lot of mileage on my legs while we were in Florida (slightly more than 36) will give me the reservoir from which I can not only draw today to complete my longer-than-planned final training run but also next Sunday.  

Seven weeks down.  One week left.

-AK 


Saturday, February 16, 2013

Thoughts and Food

It is merely one man's opinion but....

....when advocates for those who are physically disabled and/or physically handicapped strive to point out all of the things that a person is still capable of doing irrespective of a disability the type of example that they want to call to mind is that set by this young man - and not the one allegedly set by this one.   

....Carnival Cruise Lines is far more likely to continue to use this laugh-out-loud funny spot regarding vacation horrors in their advertising than any footage from the recent voyage of the ironically-named Carnival Triumph.   In fairness to their PR and marketing folks, if you christened a ship "Carnival Festering Cauldron of Sweat and Shit" it would be pretty damn hard to get anyone to book a voyage on it regardless of the rate.  

....no group of human beings appears to have a less firm grasp on the distinction between "citizenship" and "residency" than those occupying elected office.  The latest case in point from here in the State of Concrete Gardens came earlier this week courtesy of Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver.  In the wake of Frank Lautenberg's announcement that he shall not seek re-election to the United States Senate when his term expires in 2014, various Democrats have been preparing to stake their claim to his turf.  One of them is Newark Mayor Cory Booker.   At a press event earlier this week, Speaker Oliver declared herself "well-prepared" to seek her party's nomination for the Senate and added, "Mayor Booker will have to compete for the support of the citizens of New Jersey."  He shall not - of course - have to do so.  Why?  Regardless of her qualifications or his or anyone else's who might seek the nomination, none of them shall compete for the support of New Jersey's citizens.  We have none.  We have residents.  We have residents who are citizens of the United States.  We have residents who are citizens of countries other than the United States.  We have exactly ZERO residents who are citizens of New Jersey.  Never have had any.  Pretty safe to bet that as long as this nation remains a Republic we never shall.  

....if learning that earlier this week Peter J. Ganci, III was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant in the FDNY does not bring a smile to your face, a tear to your eye and a lump to your throat with equal alacrity then you are just not wired correctly.  Ganci's father, Peter Ganci, was the FDNY's Chief of Department in 2001.  On September 11 he was one of the 343 members of the FDNY who died in the line of duty.  At the time Chief Ganci was the FDNY's highest-ranking uniformed officer.  In earning the promotion to Lieutenant this week, Peter joined his younger brother Chris who was promoted to the very same rank last year.  The Brothers Ganci have a third member of their family who also attained the rank of Lieutenant this week:  their brother-in-law Bryan Cowan.   


-AK

Friday, February 15, 2013

Time and Space

Here in the Northeast there are far fewer folks feeling the love for the prognosticating groundhog from Pennsylvania than there were just two short weeks ago.  In fairness to the little fur ball, while he predicted an early Spring he did not provide a specific reference point.  Who is to say he was talking about those of us who live in a part of the world where there are several seasons a year?   

In furtherance of my defense of my man Phil, the Missus, Joe and I only returned home a couple of days ago from our extended-stay trip to Florida and I have it on very good authority (namely the tan that I am sporting in spite of being slathered from head to toe daily in SPF 1000.9 sunblock) that where we were it felt very much like Spring.  Truth be told, more often than not it felt quite a bit like early Summer.  The weather was so delightful that I logged upwards of 36 or 37 miles of road running all the while never wearing anything heavier than a short-sleeved t-shirt and a pair of shorts.  

There was no "bad" part of our trip to Florida.  Rather it was a compilation of good moment atop good moment.  Hell, even when United Airlines cancelled our original flight home (I drop the word "original" in there because they subsequently cancelled our second flight home as well) they did so thirty-six hours ahead of its scheduled departure.  While staying in Florida three nights longer than anticipated carried with it financial consequences - because not only does nobody ride for free they do not rent a car for free or stay at a resort for free either - United's timely notification enabled us to spend the additional days in Florida at the same beautiful place we were already staying as opposed to camped out on plastic seats in the terminal at Orlando International Airport.  

In a week-plus of really, really good times the highlight for me was our trip to Jupiter to visit Mom.  I am not a frequent visitor to Mom's in Jupiter.  Truth be told, until I flew down there roughly five years ago when she had to be hospitalized for a heart-related procedure I had not ever been there in spite of the fact that she has lived in Florida since 1997.  Mom is eighty-two plus years old.  She is without doubt the single toughest, strongest person I have ever known - having survived three-plus decades of marriage to Dad, having raised six kids (including getting the final three of us through college AFTER his death and having lived at this point longer as a widow than she did as a wife.  She has been tested and challenged by too many health issues to count, including but not limited to breast cancer more than a quarter-century ago.   

Joanie K. is tough as nails.  But she is also human.  And even a feisty octogenarian is a frail octogenarian.  The past several times I had seen Mom - prior to last week - it had seemed to me as if that frailty was on full display.  Not last week.  Last week Mom seemed as full of fire and of vigor as I have seen her in some time. One of my most prized possessions is a photograph of Mom and me that either Kara or Jill took a lifetime ago when I graduated from CU.  May 12, 1989.  I have it presently where I have had it for years, which is on the top shelf of the bookcase in my office - in my line of sight.  A week ago Wednesday Margaret took a couple of photographs of Mom and me that shall in short order find their way to that hallowed ground. 

A trip to Florida that began on my forty-sixth birthday included a day in which I was reminded of just how good it was to feel like a little kid.  Talk about travelling through time.  Irrespective of my age, I shall always be my mother's son.   Almost five decades further on up the road, it still has one hell of a nice ring to it.

-AK







  

Thursday, February 14, 2013

....because she has never looked for a sweet-talkin' Romeo


Today is Hallmark's favorite day:  Valentine's Day.  While there is no truth to the rumor that in a certain Pennsylvania the town fathers drag Cupid out of his hole by his ever-loving diaper pin and if he sees his own shadow, then six more weeks of Lifetime Movies of the Week shall be filmed in said hamlet during that particular calendar year, it is "the day" on the calendar of romance. 
 
If you are - as I am - particularly inept in articulating your feelings in this area then perhaps you have - as I have - turned to music to do it for you.  A number of years ago, Mr. Springsteen wrote and recorded a song, "Tougher than the Rest", which was included on the Tunnel of Love collection.  It was - and remains - one of my favorite Springsteen songs.  I view it thusly because it is a song written by a grown-up in which he expresses his very real feelings for another grown-up.  It contains not an ounce of mush.  Yet it is chock full of power and emotion.  The kind of power and emotion that were I capable of expressing it directly, I would not have had to cheat and drop the link to a simply gorgeous version of Springsteen singing this song at the end of this piece.  
 
Happy Valentine's Day to my long-suffering and eternally optimistic bride to whom I am forever grateful for not giving up on me and taking up the search for her very own sweet-talkin' Romeo....
 
-AK
 
 
 




Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Fever Pitched

Each and every time I see an elected official from Texas in action I think the same thing to myself:  the collective I.Q. of that state is going to drop precipitously if and when Ryan and Suzanne migrate eastward back to the State of Concrete Gardens.  
 
Last night it was duly elected asshat Steven Stockman, a House member (and to my chagrin but not surprise a member of the GOP) who took top honors.  Stockman invited "Motor City Madman" Ted Nugent to attend the State of the Union address.   Nugent's greatest contribution to the adult-level political discourse in this Republic is simply this:  the more that people associate him with his politics, the less they pay attention to his over-hyped and under-talented previous iteration as a rock and roller.  
 
Congratulations to Congressman Stockman for figuring out a way to jump-start his fifteen minutes of fame.  Here is to hoping that his timer and Nugent's ring simultaneously. 
 
Actually what I hope for most of all, which I doubt will occur, is that members of the GOP (save for the empty-headed space fillers such as Stockman who has proven he knows not the difference between "importance" and "impotence") finally wake up.  I want them to finally give up chasing the loudest sound and the shiniest toy as if they have been called to do so by some 21st Century incarnation of "Manifest Destiny".  I want them to go back to basics:  focus on those things that are important, regardless of whether they command six-inch, bold-type headlines.  Methinks that when they do they will be surprised to re-discover that they are doing work that benefits not only the GOP but the USA. 
 
Until then they will wander around the hinterland looking in vain for a remedy for Cat Scratch Fever....
 
-AK
 
 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

To Catch A Worm....

Today is "Yankees Go Home" Day.  Our extended Florida vacation has reached its end.  It was spectacular.  Once wheels touch pavement in Newark this morning we shall commence our transition back to reality....

Sigh...

-AK

Monday, February 11, 2013

All Good Things

Our extended stay in Florida reaches its final full day today.  We originally were scheduled to fly home on Saturday.  Nemo had other ideas.  Happiness is not having to shovel snow dropped on one's doorstep by a winter storm, irrespective of the Disney-inspired name attached to it.  Happiness comes at a cost....and I am not referring to simply the cost of snow removal.  You think one spends three additional nights somewhere and drives a rental car for three additonal days without paying for that privilege?  In the words of the great American pop philosopher Jackson Browne, "Nobody rides for free.  Nobody."  He knew of which he sang.

This has been a tremendous trip for me (and I hope for Margaret and Joe too).  Most of the time has been spent doing a whole lot of nothing.  It has been just what the doctor ordered. And while I am confident that by day's end on Thursday it will feel as if I never left, I am equally confident that the memories of this trip shall last with me far, far longer than that.

-AK

Sunday, February 10, 2013

A Second Helping

Due to circumstances entirely beyond our control we are spending a second Sunday in Florida.  The good news is that by alerting us more than thirty-six hours prior to our scheduled Saturday morning departure of their decision to cancel our flight United ensured us of the chance to spend our additional seventy-two hours in Florida in somewhere far more comfortable than a terminal in Orlando International.

The bad news?  Holy smokes has this vacation gotten a lot more expensive!  Glad my birthday only comes one time a year....

-AK

Saturday, February 9, 2013

The Best-Laid Plans....

Today was supposed to have been "Return to Reality" day for the Missus, Joe and me.  Today was when we were scheduled to make our way home from what has been an all-too-quick but oh-so-wonderful week in the Florida sun.  On Thursday afternoon United Airlines sent me an e-mail that changed all that:  due to the Blizzard of 2013 our flight home was not going to happen.  The first flight we could get?  Tuesday morning at dawn's ass crack. 

Enjoy your Saturday.  We shall too.

-AK 

Friday, February 8, 2013

The Line to Make

Wonderful timing - this week in the Florida sun.  The Central Park Marathon is two weeks from Sunday.  I have been able this week to do something that I could not have done had I not been (a) on vacation; and (b) on vacation in a place where the weather has been warm and beautiful.  I have been able to run outside every morning.  An elixir for the body.  An elixir for the soul as well. 

I appreciate the fact that many runners to not run with music.  I do.  I find that often for me time passes more quickly and far more painlessly when I allow myself to get lost a bit in the music.  Happiness is a voice in your head that is accompanied by a guitar, a bass and drums?  Perhaps.   In my case it is. 

As the miles I run increase - whether because I am training for an endeavor such as a marathon or simply because I enjoy the cleansing, calming feeling that envelops me during and after I run - the number of songs loaded onto my iPod has also increased.  I have what I consider to be a fairly wide-ranging and eclectic mix of songs that serves as my musical accompaniment.  Not all of them are upbeat.  And to the surprise of some I suppose, not all of them are Springsteen. 

Each serves a purpose, regardless of artist or tempo.  Each is designed to help me stay focused on what I am doing and why I am doing it.   This week, having not only beautiful Florida sunrises to light my way but also roads free of ice and snow upon which to run, I have had the chance to pay a bit more attention than I might otherwise to each song.  

I have mentioned in this space before that training for a marathon is an excruciatingly selfish exercise - particularly if you are (as I am) one who runs and not a 'runner'.  A twenty-mile training run is a three and one-half hour time commitment.  And while I am the only one who is required to complete the training runs,  the effect of them is felt not only by me but by Margaret.   

My marathon goal remains fixed:  complete one in four hours or less.  If I realize that goal this year, then the 2013 Central Park Marathon shall mark the end of my marathon-running career.  Considering that my time in the New Jersey Marathon in 2012 was slightly more than eight minutes slower than it was in 2011, the odds of realizing that goal this year remain....well, let us just call me a long shot and leave it at that.  

Through all of it Margaret has been a trouper.  I am no bargain under the best of circumstances but under these particular circumstances, having to endure the ceaseless preparatory work for what is - to be kind - a fool's errand, she has consistently gone above and beyond.   She has been where she has been since Day One all those many years ago:  right beside me.  

May I be so lucky and so smart as to never do anything to change that and to always be what I enjoy being, which is one-half of a very good team.  Then.  Now....

....and right down the line.


-AK 

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Change of Pace Day



Today is a "change of pace" day here in the warm Florida sun.  This week has been incredibly relaxing.  When we were last here in December 2011 there were a number of things that we wanted to see and to check out, which we did.  We saw a lot, did a lot and had a terrific time.  

This week, we came south with limited items on the docket.  This week was more about recharging than hard-charging.  It is a plan to which we have adhered.   Other than spending the day with Mom in Jupiter, which was a day for her youngest son to treasure, it has been a week spent in lounging mode.  

Not today.  Today Margaret and I had hoped to bring together two great forces of Nature:  Joe and Shamu.    However, as I learned when I was in my office last week buying the tickets for the Sea World trip, Shamu lives in San Diego.  I suppose if I only paid more attention to Shamu's "Tweets" I would have known that already.  Live and learn.  And I will always have the "Shamu-Cam".   That will have to be enough.  

....well that and the Asian-small-clawed-otters.  Cute little devils, right?  


-AK 

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Sixth Sense

On the down side, we have already reached the mid-point of our February Florida Fun Fest.  I will try to keep my self-absorbed weeping to a dull roar if you promise to do the same with your derisive snickers.  

On the up side, "6" has become a very significant number in our house.  And it has done so for all the right reasons.  Seven months from this very day is Suzanne and Ryan's wedding day.  Nine months to the day after Suzanne and Ryan get married is Jess and Rob's wedding day.   

If the need should arise, then feel free to take the fifth.  But leave the sixth alone.  In my house we have plans for it.   Really big plans....

....and they include neither Bruce Willis nor Haley Joel Osmont.   

-AK 

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

To Kill A Mockingbird....

....and a sparrow.  And a jay.  And a cardinal.  And a finch.

When is the last time you - or anyone you know - spent any discernible amount of time out of doors and thought to yourself, "Where have all the birds gone?  Why is the sky so bereft of winged creatures?  Why are  the boughs and branches of all of the trees barren?"  If your life experience is anything close to mine, then the next time such an event occurs, it shall be the very first time that it has happened.    And if it does occur and you find yourself with an itch that just needs to be scratched in terms of some avian companionship, get a bag of crackers, take a drive to the closest park or to the nearest beach and start tossing the bag's contents onto the ground or onto the sand.  It took longer for you to read that last sentence than it shall take for winged freeloaders to arrive on the scene.  

You will forgive me therefore if I had difficulty tamping down my laugh out loud reflex when I saw this headline in the January 29, 2013 on-line edition of USA Today:  Roaming cats kill up to 3.7B birds annually.   Who the hell - exactly - is financing the employment of a person or persons charged with the enormous responsibility of tracking the number of bird deaths each year and - whether those deaths are attributable to natural causes, man or feline tormentors?  I am happy you asked.  It turns out that you and I are.  The 3.7 Billion figure is the result of a three-year study paid for by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (a/k/a "Us").  I am curious to know just how many of those inbred, redneck ass hats who voted against Hurricane Sandy relief for those of us who live in the Northeast voted with both thumbs up to fund this study.  I would be willing to wager that if it was not 100% assent then it was pretty goddamn close.  

Odd how I do not recall anyone manning the ramparts in defense of all winged creatures great and small when a flock who apparently fought off feline attackers managed to take down a jumbo jet shortly after it took off from LaGuardia Airport one January day four winters ago.  But for the actions of one cool cat one hundred and fifty-five mammals of the human variety would have died.   Sarah Palin and other members of the lunatic fringe in the GOP were ready to (a) deport all geese irrespective of national origin; (b) invade Canada again; or (c) both.   My how the worm has turned. 

If you are among those horrified by the levels of "cat on bird" violence ongoing perpetually (or so it seems) in these United States, then be thankful that cats are incapable of arming and firing slingshots.  "Two birds.  One stone."  Do the math.  The carnage would be staggering....



-AK 




Monday, February 4, 2013

And I Find Myself Longing For Home....

Here in a part of the world where the only white powdery substance (well, one of two perhaps) to be seen for miles is the sugar sprinkled atop french toast at the local IHOP, a story from a recent edition of the Star-Ledger that made me think of home.  Why?  Simply because what happened there is something that could not happen here. 

On the evening of January 25, two young men - their names are provided in the story - were arrested following their armed robbery of the Faded Kutz barbershop in Hamilton Township, New Jersey.  In addition to robbing the shop, one of them shot one of the shop's employees as they were fleeing from it. 

Thankfully, finding them holed up at the home where they were hiding out proved to be a not-too-difficult task for the various law enforcement agencies who responded to the 9-1-1 call.  You see it had started to snow shortly before these two young criminal masterminds burst into the barbershop.   By the time they left the shop, snow covered the sidewalk, the street, etc.  Being that each of these two geniuses weighs something more than nothing at all, every step each took in the snow left behind a footprint.  The police followed the footprints to the house where they were hiding.  To the surprise of no one - other than the dumbnamic duo perhaps - they found them inside and arrested them without incident.   Each was charged with robbery, aggravated assault, possession of a weapon for unlawful purpose and unlawful possession of a weapon and was incarcerated at the Mercer County Corrections Center on $400,000 full cash bail.   


For the curious among you, the song for which the video is provided ("Hard to Find") is found on the album that Southside Johnny and the Jukes released way back when in 1986.  I thought it appropriate today not solely for the irony of the track's name to the events discussed but also for the name of the album on which that song first appeared.  The name of that particular disc?


-AK 

Sunday, February 3, 2013

And I Gave It a Name....

[The after-the-fact name of this piece derives from the fact that I wrote it AND posted it without a name.  The fact that I had such a memory fart on my birthday is either coincidental or ironic.  I know not which.  I will leave it to you to decide.  As you shall see below, today I shall be otherwise engaged]

All I have ever wanted for my birthday is to spend the day in warm weather.  Well, it took forty-six years for that present to arrive.  Today it has.  Margaret, Joe and I are flying south this morning to spend a week in the  Florida sun.  It is a week that will feature me doing a whole lot of nothing, which considering how I spend most of my time is a most-welcome change of pace.  

If you have a rooting interest in today's Super Bowl then I hope the team for whom you are rooting (a/k/a "the team upon whom you placed your wager") comes through for you.  I am not a fan of either Baltimore or San Francisco so I care little who wins - although I suppose the presence of both a CU Buff (Jimmy Smith) and one of my all-time favorite Rutgers Scarlet Knights (Ray Rice) on the Ravens - not to mention their painfully frank and blunt, young, Jersey-grown quarterback Joe Flacco (whose statement earlier this week on the abject stupidity of playing a Super Bowl in Bergen County, New Jersey (save for his poor choice of the word 'retarded') was spot-on from my point of view) - has me rooting ever so slightly for Baltimore.  


Be grateful this fellow fancies hot dogs.  Otherwise, just think how f*cked we would all be with no chicken to be lickin'....

Are you ready for some football?

-AK 

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Phil Connors is God....

Today is Groundhog Day.  It is the day on which a hole-dwelling varmint and the two-legged ass hats who occupy the space above ground from his hole seduce the world-at-large into descending upon a little patch of land known as Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania for the purpose of finding out whether the aforementioned hole-dwelling varmint, known by the delightfully alliterative sobriquet "Punxsutawney Phil", shall lay his eyes upon his own shadow when he emerges from his hole.   And for those of us who cannot make it to Punxsutawney to see whether Phil engages in an early February shadow dance or not, fear not about missing the big moment.  It will be streamed live here.  

Groundhog Day does have a purpose.  In fact, it has three.  First, to provide those of us who view the world through somewhat jaundiced and cynical eyes with an endless supply of fodder.  Seriously, as a cynic one can scarcely hope for a better target of derision than Groundhog Day and the "town fathers" all dressed up in their formal wear toting around a beast whose head they would blow off with their .12 gauge if it emerged from a hole in the middle of their vegetable patch on May 2nd.  Second, to make me love my mother more than I even otherwise would be capable of doing.  You see, the original action plan as I understand was for me - Mom's sixth and final child - to be dropped from my warm carrying case and into the cold, hard world on February 2.  As Mom tells the tale, her response to the doctor's proposed delivery date was, "Like Hell.  No child of mine is being born on Groundhog Day."  Just to spite the doctor, not only was I know born on the second, but I did not actually make the scene until the evening of the next day.  I learned - even before I arrived - that one should know better than to screw with Joanie K.  

And with all due deference to my mother, who I love with all my heart, the single-most important purpose that this silly day has in our culture is that its existence served as the inspiration and namesake for one of my all-time favorite films.   Harold Ramis and Bill Murray did many terrific things together but it is this film - more than any other - that makes me want to plead with them to kiss and make up.  

You spend your Groundhog Day however you deem appropriate.  Me?  I plan on spending scant little time with Punxsutawney Phil.  Phil Connors?  Well, that is an entirely different story.

Who is in the mood for blueberry waffles?  They are today's Special.....


-AK 

Friday, February 1, 2013

Pulling Down Winter's Hazy Shade

The shortest month of the year kicks off today.  February is so darn popular that once every four years we permit it to tack on a 29th day.  And upon doing so we remember that no one in their right mind actually wants one MORE day of winter....so we eliminate Sadie Hawkins Day from the calendar for the following three years.  

Today is the first work day of the month and - for me anyway - the last work day of the month until a week from Monday.  The Missus, Joe and I are off to Florida for a week's worth of rest and relaxation.   Me going away from a week permits my assistant Lucia an opportunity to catch her breath too.  Life is a tad easier for her when I am somewhere other than at work.  

I am determined to not jinx us by talking too much about the weather that is supposed to be waiting for us in Florida but based upon what I have seen so far, it very well may have a rather delightfully boring consistency to it:  sunny and in the 70's.   Not a bad way to spend February's first week.   May very well make returning home to the State of Concrete Gardens for February's second week a real kick in the face but as the late, great Edward Kennedy was never fond of saying, "We shall drive off of that bridge when we come to it." 


-AK